Sunday, February 28, 2010

Take The Bus Tour

It's always a great idea to take the bus tour when you have a very limited time. You'll see more sights in a few hours.
The tour bus we took was a few blocks away from Termini, but the tickets were purchased at a store in the main station. With Rome, we didn't know that there were three different kinds of tour buses plying the same route. So it took a little bit of running to find our bus, which was the lime green bus.
The weather was glorious. Only a few days ago, we were told it rained for days. My friend who I was meeting was worried that my day in Rome would be rainy, but the sun was out and the wind was cool. A great day to sightsee.
My camera did not stop clicking. I must as well admit to the fact that I did not put on my earphones to listen to the audio of the tour. I was into shooting some street scenes. I don't see this often at home.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Port of Call: Civitavecchia (Day 3)

With sea day the previous day and rested from a good night's sleep, waking up early and breakfasting on the deck gave us a chance to witness our ship's entry into the port of Rome, the harbour town of Civitavecchia.
Civitavecchia is a sea port on the Tyrrhenian Sea, about 80 km WNW of Rome. Civitavecchia means ancient town.

In order to get to Rome, take the bus, or more conveniently IMO take the train. If I remember correctly (I have no access to my cruise diary because it's in my PC and right now I'm blogging on my laptop) the fare one way to Roma Termini (main terminal) is 9 euro.

When we disembarked, we found buses waiting for us. We were sorted out according to who's taking the official NCL tour (about $170 pp) and who are going on their own. On the DIY line, we met a lovely couple from Victoria BC who in the coming days became one of our fave tour mates. The buses for DIY-ers stop outside the fort walls, where a tourism office/kiosk is situated. We were told to ask for directions to the train station. There were too many people opting to do the tour on their own that it was easy to find the train station - just follow the crowd.

The image was captured on our return from Rome. I was in hurry in the morning to stop and snap.

The fortress walls at night. Waiting for the bus that would take us back to the ship.

For my cruise virgin readers, this is what you need to know. You don't have all the time in the world in your port of call. Your time is limited. Sometimes, VERY limited. Like Rome for instance. I think this would be where people find unpalatable about cruising - they don't see enough of the port of call sights.

For instance in Rome, the ship docks at 8 am and departs at 8 pm. Docks at 8 am doesn't mean you get off at 8 am. You get off later. Sometimes there is a delay in docking too. Factor in your travel time to Rome, which is about an hour by train each way. That's another two hours that you will not have for sightseeing or shopping.

Understand that cruising is like going to the buffet, you only get to taste a little bit of this and little bit of that. Now when you like what you tasted, hopefully, you get to devote a whole vacation to that place.

For us cruising is the answer to all our needs. We want to take one plane ride but see many different places where we don't have to pack and unpack to each place we see. We also don't want to worry about the food. We like to pay one price and be done with it. With cruising our accommodations, food, and transportation is covered.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 1 and 2

One last look at Barcelona

Here's a little disclaimer for those who haven't been in a cruise. When they say your cruise is 12 days, it means both embarkation ( 7 pm) and disembarkation (7-9 am) days are counted. On all three of my cruises embarkation process starts at 1 pm.

I was keen on getting checked in early, I just don't wanna be caught up in the log jam when everyone else comes in to get checked in.

So we checked out from our accommodations, took the Metro to Drassanes station where the port of Barcelona is located. Along the way we met a wonderful mother and son from Texas that was taking the same cruise as we are, so we all went to the bus station where for a Euro or something you could get to your cruise line.

Our check in was quick - didn't I tell you going in early makes for a quick finish? When we entered the boat, we were met with welcome drinks. Hurriedly we downed the drinks, put our luggage in our cabin, and made a dash out. The boat leaves at 7 pm we had plenty of time to take a quick peek at Rambla del Mar (see post earlier), buy that sardine for a sardine lover friend, get more souvenirs, grab a 6-pack of bottled water, and visit the flea market by the port.

We can leave the boat and the port again, as long as we get back to the boat by departure time. On board, everything is free except alcoholic drinks and bottled water. Seasoned cruisers knew how to bring their own wine and bottled water. What people do is check in their luggage, leave the port, shop for water, then return to the boat without going through the x-ray machine again :D

By the time we got back to the boat, it was nearly on it's way out of the port. We managed to look around first and spotted from the atrium a bar that serves coffee and alcohol :D

Across the bar, is the main desk. This would be imperative to know.

A must do is participate in safety drills that are conducted before the boat leaves the port. However, this was shot on the second day because we were out when the drills were conducted. I thought we were excused from participating the drills (while important, it could be a drag, a repetition, like the ones on every plane trip we take), but we got summons :D, letter informing us of a make-up drills for those who missed them because they weren't on board.

The important thing to remember about this I believe is in case of emergency and the boat needs to be evac, which is your group and where do you meet. Our group meets in a bar. We all laugh at the irony.

Also on the second day, as a token of thanks for return customers (called members of Latitudes club), we were invited to a private Latitudes only cocktail party where we got to meet the captain. He's the one with the mike. Too young, isn't he?

At this party, the drinks were overflowing. It was like an hour long meet and greet, but I thought I had 3 or 4 of this (and hors d'oeuvres) and walked out of the room with one in hand :D

By lunchtime, there was a barbecue set up in the pool area. As you can see I was more interested in taking a shot of the blue sky, always thinking of Skywatch :D If you must know, hubs and I walked away plateless from this bbq set up.

Instead we chilled on the deck, put our feet up and waited for the sunset. Took some photos for Watery Wednesday too.

And then it was my first Mediterranean sunset. That silhouette is my husband. At this time, while watching the sunset, we met another cruisemate, a lovely lady from Montreal who would be a part of our Cairo trip.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On With The Show

Why have I felt a tinge of sadness and regret that my short stay in Barcelona is ending? The trip to this Catalan capital was supposed to be a sidelight with the Mediterranean cruise as the highlight of this 17-day European get-away. However, Barcelona wooed me with her architecture, her food, her narrow streets, her museums, her lovely people, her mild weather, her many attractions. I was enchanted by her and I loved it. I love her.

Hence, it was pretty difficult to change gears from sadness of leaving Barcelona to excitement at the thought of the exotic ports, like Alexandria in Egypt the gateway to Cairo, or Piraeus in Greece, the gateway to Athens, that we will be visiting.

The welcome aboard cocktail helped plenty to swing my surly mood to a festive I'm-on-a-freaking-holiday swagger. I went about my business of unpacking - mildly concern that the clothes we brought would not be enough for the 12 days on sea (we brought dirty laundry onboard, the ones we used in Barcelona). Dear husband had reminded me that there is laundry service on board - in the past we had no need for this service as our previous cruises were 3 and 7 days each. We have a habit of underpacking, keeping in mind the need for luggage space for souvenirs and pasalubongs (gifts) weighed more in our decision making. Hence less clothes reasoning that we could always buy it when we need it.

So here we are on to the show!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pounding the Pavement

The best way to get to know the city is to walk its streets. Doing so will get you shoulder to shoulder with it's colorful residents and it's enthusiastic visitors.

You will be up close with its beautiful architecture. I love arches.

You get to window shop and people watch.

And most especially for me I got to walk it's narrow streets. I love them.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rambla Del Mar

This is what the sign says:

Rambla del Mar is an ideal place for going for a stroll and taking in some brand new views of the city. Built on the sea, this gangway is one of Port Vell's most emblematic works, unique in the world. The Port Vell is Barcelona's largest leisure, recreational, commercial area, 55 ha of land next to the sea have been used to build large public walkways, offices, commercial premises, restaurants, bars, an immense aquarium, an I-Max cinema, a multi-cinema complex, Catalonia's History Museum, the Maritime Museum and a myriad fo sailing and sports areas. The P0rt Vell is a unique area, the liveliest and most relaxing place in Barcelona. One of the city's best attractions.
The entry to the wooden walkway. At the end is a huge mall, MAREMAGNUM. This bridge is a swing bridge that allows boats to enter and exit the harbour.

It's a lovely place to people watch, see the views, feed and watch the birds, and photograph everything.
Birds are aplenty, so are fishes. In these waters, we saw a large school of fish that of course delighted tourists. I wonder if fishing is banned in this area.


It's a buoy!!!! The most famous one or at least the most recognizable one. Each time I see this buoy as user image either on facebook or on flickr, I smile and nod. That user must have enjoyed Barcelona as much as I did. I am thinking about using this as my "avatar" too :D
This is the last attraction/spot we visited in Barcelona before we sailed for the Mediterranean, but I think I still have a post or two about this enchanting city before I start with cruise reporting/documentation/posting.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Gaudi's Gaudy Guell Part Three

I wonder what caught these two's attention?
Was it his soulful performance?
Or his lack of head?
Or his bubbles that captivated many?
Whatever it was, I'm sure they already paid all their attention to these two beautiful structures.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Gaudi's Gaudy Guell Part Two

This is at the main terrace, a focal point of the park. It is surrounded by a serpentine bench that goes almost around the entire terrace. You can see the towers of the Sagrada Familia in the background. It's the one in the left side.
The bench is decorated with mosaic tiles on both sides.
I see some gargoyles.
If you love tile mosaic, baby, this is your paradise.
Love the brown hues.

Can you see the bumps? Gaudi designed them to easily keep water out of the bench when it rains.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Gaudi's Gaudy Guell Part One

Park Guell is a magical place. I have never been to anywhere like it. I've never been to a park where I have to climb up a hill just to get to the entrance.

On this first part, I will show a part of the park called the wave portico. I don't have to say anything else, just enjoy the pictures.

I knew nothing about this park, except that we penciled it in our itinerary after my husband remembered seeing it in one of the Spanish movies we have seen. I can't remember which foreign movie it was (we love foreign movies), but apparently the movie made more of an impression to my dear than it did to me. But I am very thankful that he remembered this place.

For more information, check this out, or this, or this.

You probably have guessed that this Barcelona series is not a chronologically presented. And I'm sorry that I did that. It was lack of foresight on my part.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Biking Via Bicing in Barcelona

While sightseeing on top of a double decker bus, one notices a myriad of interesting attractions. And while I oohed and aahed at the fabulous architecture, this sight did not escape my curiosity. So I took photos.
I noted the sign on the bikes - BICING - and googled it and learned what it's about. It is a community bicycle program in Barcelona (like the zipcar or share a car program in many world cities). Paris has a similar bike program as well. Bike "stations" are conveniently located near a metro station.

How to participate in this program? Sign up for a yearly membership. For more info, here's the website . If you don't have a translator, the wiki page is very helpful.

I applaud programs like this. I wish other cities will adopt this program (I don't know much about logistics in launching projects like this). I don't know if this venture is applicable to the city of San Franciso (too hilly), but I'm sure other cities can surely benefit from it.